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Jobs & Bursaries


The chance for bursaries for summer 2017 has passed - but please contact us if you are interested in a summer 2018 placement (Deadline for interest is January 2018).

We are always looking for 2nd, 3rd and 4th year students who may be interested in a summer placement in the group. The placement will potentially be funded by the Undergraduate Bursary Scheme and the student may receive up £1200 to cover living expenses during the 8 week project. If you would like to put your name forward for a summer placement or would like further details then please contact Richard Morton.  

Below are some of the past projects that students have been involved in.

Dynamics of the lower solar atmosphere with Dr Richard Morton
The Sun's atmosphere is highly dynamic nature showing evidence for a range of flows, waves, jets and explosive events. The dynamic nature of the atmosphere is nowhere more clear than at the lower altitudes of the solar atmosphere. 

The photosphere (left panel in movie) is the Sun's visible surface, which is typified by its cell-like structure. These features are known as granules and are around a 1000 km across (big enough to fit the UK inside). The granules are constantly evolving and are a signature of turbulent convection occurring beneath the Sun's surface. In between the granules, small bright features can be seen, which are a marker for the Sun's complex magnetic field. This magnetic field reaches high into the solar atmosphere and even extends out past the Earth, all the way to edge of the solar system. Around 2000 km above the photosphere there exists a layer called chromosphere (right hand panel of the movie). The dark, elongated structures seen in the chromospheric movie also highlight the magnetic field. At present, the chromosphere still holds many secrets due to difficulties associated with studying the complex structure seen in the images. 

   The project involved using data such as that shown above to understand the dynamics of the solar atmosphere (photosphere and chromosphere) and the student undertook data analysis using real solar data and code development to generate automated techniques for analysis of data. 

Energy deposition through wave-particle interaction in the solar corona with Dr Gert Botha

Courtesy of NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory

The solar coronal temperature is a million Kelvin and various heating mechanisms are thought to be responsible for this high temperature. This project considers the interaction between waves in the coronal plasma (hot ionized gas) and fast-moving particles. Energy is exchanged between the particles and the plasma through a collisionless process known as Landau resonance. The high temperature and low density of the solar corona allows the plasma to be considered as collisionless, which means that it is described analytically by the kinetic theory of gasses. The waves that occur in the corona are the magnetohydrodynamic waves and the ion cyclotron wave – all of which will be described in their collisional fluid approximation. This project forms a bridge between the collisionless and collisional theories. It will use the dispersion relation of each wave in the kinetic description of various plasma distributions to obtain the energy made available through Landau resonances. 

Image of the solar corona. Courtesy of NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory. 

Magnetohydrodynamic wave conversion in inhomogeneous plasmas using the geometrical acoustics method with Dr James McLaughlin

Nonlinear fast MHD wave propagation in the neighbourhood of a 2D magnetic X-point

This project will investigate the nonlinear behaviour of magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) waves in inhomogeneous plasmas. Inhomogeneity often occurs in laboratory and space plasmas due to, e.g., variations in temperature, density, or the presence of non-constant magnetic fields. Wave behaviour and propagation is strongly influenced within inhomogeneous media, in particular the presence of such non-uniformities invites the possibility for wave conversion – which fundamentally changes the resultant behaviour. Thus, there is a great deal of interest in understanding wave conversion in inhomogeneous media over a wide range of applications.
Experiments, observations and numerical simulations have provided many examples of wave conversion in laboratory and space plasmas. However, progress depends upon the correction interpretation of these wave motions, by comparison with detailed theoretical models. Previous work has shown that the WKB method (geometrical acoustics method) can provide a vital link between analytical and experimental/observational/ numerical work, and often provides the critical insight to understanding the physical results.
Under the WKB approach (geometrical acoustics method) a solution is found in the form of A(r,t)eiΨ(r,t) where A(r,t) is the wave amplitude and Ψ(r,t) is the eikonal, depending on both coordinates r=(x,z) and time t. By substituting this into the set of MHD equations, one can obtain Hamilton–Jacobi partial differential equations for the eikonal of MHD waves. Solving these equations with the method of characteristics gives a set of ray equations that reveal the wave behaviour.
However, previous work in MHD has been limited to the zeroth-order WKB approximation, i.e. where the eikonal, Ψ, is of primary interest and A(r,t) is not considered. However, the WKB approach can also be used to calculate the wave amplitude variation, which is essential in order to study and understand wave conversion, i.e. the transfer of energy from one wave to another.
Thus, we plan to apply the WKB technique in its full glory, i.e. not limit ourselves to the zeroth-order approximation, in order to provide a detailed description of wave conversion in inhomogeneous, magnetic environments
This project will provide the student with useful insight into how theoretical models are constructed and analysed, and the aim is to write up the results for publication. We also hope that the student will enjoy the project and will be encouraged to undertake further research after graduating.